One of the biggest contingents of current South African champions is expected to assemble for the country’s second oldest national cycling classic in Port Elizabeth early next year.
The 26th edition of The Herald VW Cycle Tour, which takes place on February 6, received this shot in the arm when Cycling SA (CSA) published the official dates of the national championships (February 2 to 5) on their website earlier this week.
The SA Championships culminate in the elite men’s and women’s, U/23 and junior races the day before the 105-kilometre tour of the Friendly City.
Hendrik Lemmer, director of Cycling SA’s road commission, said he hoped the newly-crowned champions would make use of the opportunity to show off their national jerseys in the Eastern Cape showpiece.
“We are aware of some riders only flying back to Europe after The Herald in order to participate in the race.”
Lemmer said he expected that championships would have more of an effect on the quality of the field than the numbers.
“The national championships are not for the masses, but the riders that will be there will be top class.”
He said after the championships were awarded to East Cape Cycling, and PE in particular, the chosen dates were “the best available” on a very full calendar.
“It made sense to tie in with The Herald infrastructure and vibe to create the best national championships ever.”
Lemmer said the resultant four-day festival of cycling was a strategy that fitted in with the governing body’s vision of exposing recreational cyclists to the elite side of the sport.
“We are busy creating more festivals like these where the elite riders race on the Saturday followed by the mass participation event the next day.”
Another reason for scheduling the grand finale of the SAs the day prior to The Herald, is to tie it in with the latter’s official registration.
It was vital for CSA to support events such as these, according to Lemmer.
“It is the entry point for so many youngsters into the sport, especially in the Eastern Cape, and vital to the country producing more champions. Numerous champions have been produced there, which all started with The Herald.”
With the international season starting in March, Lemmer said CSA tried to host the championships before the top riders left to ply their trade overseas. “Australia have their nationals in January for the same reason.
“It will also be great to have our new national champion race in the Tour of SA with the green and gold stripes across his chest.”
Lemmer added that riders participating in the SAs would gain helpful course knowledge for stage three of the Tour of SA, which visits PE two weeks later.
“We are planning a little surprise loop. It is the same circuit that they ride in the SAs and local insight will help as it is a fairly technical and tough finish.”
The Herald VW Cycle Tour starts and finishes at Hobie Beach in front of the Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World, where the pre-event expo and registration also take place.
Supporting sponsors are: Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World, Life St George’s Hospital, Mountain Rescue Club, Powerade, Tony’s Appliances & Beds, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Bukani Print, Town Lodge, Addo Elephant National Park and Action Cycles.
For more information, visit www.heraldcycletour.co.za or contact Shane Bradfield on 074 114 4811.
On behalf of:
The Herald VW Cycle Tour